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Book Review: Julia’s House for Lost Creatures

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures
Ben Hatke
First Second
September 2014

Julia is a friendly young woman and enjoys having company, and so does her home, conveniently located on the back of a giant turtle! She and the house decide to settle in a nice new town by the ocean and they love it, except for one thing. It’s too quiet! So Julia puts a sign up that says “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures” and soon manner of creatures are arriving from everywhere! She has goblins, mermaids, fairies, and maybe even a dragon. Soon she has plenty of company and it’s no longer quiet, but…how does she get them all to behave and help out?  After some pondering thoughts or two Julia may just have a couple of ideas.

Bet Hatke is one of my favorite writers and illustrators period. He’s best known for his recently concluded trilogy of Zita the Spacegirl, about a young woman who comes into her own and saves the universe a time or two. And although he’s moving into new worlds to play in, he’s lost none of the sense of whimsy and charm that we’ve come to know from his characters. Even more important to me is the fact that once again the main character of the book is a strong, confident young woman, who doesn’t come across as stereotypical or abnormal or anything else. She is who she is and she’s comfortable with that. In this case she’s playing host to a variety of creatures great and small and has to keep everyone from creating too much trouble, but still being friendly towards one another. Julia really reminds me a lot of Chihiro from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and I love it.

One thing that is slightly different about this book, is that it is published under FirstSecond’s picture book imprint….which is honestly a bit strange to type, because in my mind the two concepts are very much the same (at some point soon I’ll write a longer blog post on this.)  But this book does follow the traditional concept of a picture book, fewer words and more full page image spreads to capture the attention of a young reader or two.  What hasn’t changed though, is Ben’s illustrations.  In this book it is clear that Ben is working with a diverse watercolor pallet and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.  Lush and beautiful with strong vivid bright colors and details hidden within that will keep you looking for hours on end.  From the very first image we see on the front cover to the of Julia and her home (with a creature or two or few hanging out of the home) to the simplicity of the troll gracing the back cover, smiling at the record player. Again, it reminds me of Spirited Away, with the variety of creatures that come to inhabit the home.

If you were a fan of Zita then you’ll love Julia. And if you weren’t a fan of Zita, pick this book up, fall in love with Julia, and then go pick up Zita. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and I look forward to more adventures of Julia, her home, and the monsters that have come to visit.

ARC Provided by Gina at FirstSecond

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